Louis Theroux

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Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux crop.jpg
Theroux in 2018
Louis Sebastian Theroux

(1970-05-20) 20 May 1970 (age 51)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
United States
EducationWestminster School
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford
  • Documentary filmmaker
  • journalist
  • broadcaster
  • author
Years active1993–present
Susanna Kleeman
(m. 1998; div. 2001)

Nancy Strang
(m. 2012)
Websitelouistheroux.com Edit this at Wikidata

Louis Sebastian Theroux (/ˈli θəˈr/;[1] born 20 May 1970) is a British-American[2] documentary filmmaker, journalist, broadcaster, and author.[3] He has received two British Academy Television Awards and a Royal Television Society Television Award.

Born in Singapore to an English mother and American father (the writer Paul Theroux), Theroux moved with his family to London when he was a child. After graduating from Oxford, he moved to the U.S. and worked as a journalist for Metro Silicon Valley and Spy. He moved into television as the presenter of offbeat segments on Michael Moore's TV Nation series and later began to host his own documentaries, including Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, When Louis Met..., and several BBC Two specials.

Early life[edit]

Louis Sebastian Theroux was born in Singapore on 20 May 1970, the son of American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux and his English then-wife Anne (née Castle).[4][5] His paternal grandmother, Anne (née Dittami), was an Italian-American grammar school teacher, and his paternal grandfather, Albert Eugène Theroux, was French-Canadian[6][7] and a salesman for the American Leather Oak company.[8] He holds both British and American citizenship.[2] His older brother, Marcel, is a writer and television presenter.[9] His cousin, Justin, is an actor and screenwriter. Theroux is the nephew of novelist Alexander Theroux and writer Peter Theroux.

Theroux moved with his family to England at the age of one, and was brought up in London.[10] He was educated at Tower House School and then at Westminster School, a public school within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. While there, he became friends with comedians Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish,[11] and the Liberal Democrat politician Nick Clegg, with whom he travelled to America.[12] He also performed in a number of school theatre productions including Bugsy Malone as Looney Bergonzi, Ritual for Dolls as the Army Officer, and The Splendour Falls as the Minstrel.[13] Theroux later read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford (1988–1991), graduating with first-class honours.[14]


Early career[edit]

Theroux's first employment as a journalist was in the United States with Metro Silicon Valley, an alternative free weekly newspaper in San Jose, California. In 1992, he was hired as a writer for Spy magazine. He also worked as a correspondent on Michael Moore's TV Nation series,[2] for which he provided segments on off-beat cultural subjects, including selling Avon to women in the Amazon Rainforest, the Jerusalem syndrome, and attempts by the Ku Klux Klan to rebrand itself as a civil rights group for white people.

When TV Nation ended, Theroux was signed to a development deal by the BBC, through which he developed Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends. He has guest-written for a number of publications, including Hip Hop Connection, and he continues to write for The Idler.[15]


Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends[edit]

In Weird Weekends (1998–2000), Theroux followed marginal (mostly American) subcultures such as survivalists, black nationalists, white supremacists, and porn stars, often by living among or close to the people involved. His documentary method often subtly exposed the contradictions or farcical elements of some seriously held beliefs. He described the aim of the series as:

Setting out to discover the genuinely odd in the most ordinary setting. To me, it's almost a privilege to be welcomed into these communities and to shine a light on them and, maybe, through my enthusiasm, to get people to reveal more of themselves than they may have intended. The show is laughing at me, adrift in their world, as much as at them. I don't have to play up that stuff. I'm not a matinee idol disguised as a nerd.

When Louis Met...[edit]

In the series When Louis Met... (2000–02), Theroux accompanied a different British celebrity in each programme in their daily lives, interviewing them as they go. His episode about British entertainer Jimmy Savile, When Louis Met Jimmy,[16] was voted one of the top documentaries of all time in a 2005 survey by Britain's Channel 4.[17] Some years after the episode was filmed, the NSPCC described Savile as one of the most prolific sex offenders in Great Britain.[18]

In an interview in 2015, Theroux expressed his intention to produce a follow-up documentary about Savile for the BBC to explore how the late entertainer had continued his abuse for so long, to meet people he knew closely, and examine his own reflections on his inability to dig more deeply into the first case.[19] This follow-up documentary, with the title Savile, aired on BBC Two on Sunday, 2 October 2016, and lasted 1 hour, 15 minutes.[20]

In When Louis Met the Hamiltons, the former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine were arrested during the course of filming, due to false allegations of indecent assault.

In When Louis Met Max Clifford, Max Clifford tried to set up Theroux, but he was caught lying as the crew recorded his live microphone during the conversations.

After this series concluded, a retrospective called Life with Louis was released. Theroux made a documentary called Louis, Martin & Michael about his quest to get an interview with Michael Jackson to which he lost out to Martin Bashir who went on to make the documentary Living With Michael Jackson. Selected episodes of When Louis Met... were included as bonus content on a Best-Of collection of Weird Weekends.

BBC Two specials[edit]

In these special programmes, beginning in 2003, Theroux returned to American themes, working at feature-length and in a more natural way. In March 2006, he signed a new deal with the BBC to make 10 films over the course of three years.[21] Subjects for the specials include criminal gangs in Lagos, Neo-Nazis in America, ultra-Zionists in Israel. He also visits child psychiatry, and the prison systems in California and Florida. A 2007 special, The Most Hated Family in America, received strong critical praise from the international media.

My Scientology Movie[edit]

In October 2016, Theroux premiered a feature length documentary entitled My Scientology Movie. Produced by Simon Chinn—a schoolfriend of Theroux's—and directed by John Dower, the film covers Theroux attempting to gain access to the secretive Church of Scientology. The film premiered at the London Film Festival in 2015 and was released in cinemas in the UK on 7 October 2016.[22]


Theroux published his first book, The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures, in Britain in 2005. In it he recounts his return to the United States to learn about the lives of some of the people he had featured in his television programmes.

Theroux released an autobiography titled Gotta Get Theroux This in September 2019.[9]


In April 2020, during a COVID-19 lockdown, Theroux started the BBC Radio 4 podcast Grounded with Louis Theroux, recorded at his home, where he interviews well known people that he finds particularly fascinating, who he would not necessarily have had a chance to speak to before the COVID-19 pandemic.[23]

Other appearances[edit]

Theroux makes a few appearances on The Adam and Joe Show DVD and has been a guest many times on Adam & Joe's radio shows as well as on The Adam Buxton Podcast.

As part of the Weird Weekends episode "Porn", Theroux agreed to film a cameo in the 1997 gay pornography film Take a Peak.[24] He did not perform sexual acts in the film, but made a brief appearance as a park ranger in search of a criminal. In the Weird Weekends episode "Infomercials", he was featured as a live salesman for an at-home paper shredder for the Home Shopping Network.[25]

In December 2015 Theroux captained the team representing Magdalen College, Oxford, on BBC Four's Christmas University Challenge. In their first-round match the team beat University of Exeter by 220 to 130 and Theroux's team went on to win the tournament.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Theroux's first marriage was to Susanna Kleeman from 1998 to 2001; he later told Sathnam Sanghera of the Financial Times, "What happened was that my girlfriend was living with me in New York. She was having trouble finding work ... legally. So we got married, to make it easier for her. We never really considered ourselves married in the full sense – there were no wedding photos or anything like that. It was really a marriage of convenience."[27]

While filming a 2011 BBC programme, Theroux was asked "Why pose a difference between religion and ethics?" He responded, "Because I don't believe in God."[28] In his 2011 documentary, The Ultra Zionists, he confirmed his atheism.[29] In a 2012 masterclass, Theroux spoke of the challenges of combining family life with the need to go away to work on projects.[30]

Theroux married longtime girlfriend Nancy Strang on 13 July 2012.[31] They have three sons.[9] He and his family lived in Harlesden, London[2][9] until they temporarily moved to Los Angeles, California in early 2013, allowing him more time to focus on his LA Stories series.[32] In August 2017, Theroux again relocated to Los Angeles.[33]

In 2018 Theroux was targeted by cyber security firm Insinia to highlight a longstanding security flaw in Twitter's system.[34]

During a 2018 interview with The Guardian, he revealed that he was a nervous flyer.[35]

Theroux has stated that while he acknowledges that it is an intoxicant and can be a trigger to mental health issues, he supports the legalisation of cannabis.[36][37]

Awards and nominations[edit]

BAFTA Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
2002 Richard Dimbleby Award for the Best Presenter (Factual, Features and News) When Louis Met... Won
Flaherty Documentary Award (TV) When Louis Met... The Hamiltons Nominated
2001 Richard Dimbleby Award for the Best Presenter (Factual, Features and News) Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends Won

Emmy Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
1995 Outstanding Informational Series TV Nation Nominated

Royal Television Society Television Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
2010 Best Presenter A Place for Paedophiles Won
2002 Best Presenter When Louis Met... Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Say How? A Pronunciation Guide to Names of Public Figures". Loc.gov. Retrieved 20 August 2010.)
  2. ^ a b c d Byrne, Ciar (2 December 2007). "Louis Theroux: 'When I work I like to be invisible'". The Independent. After leaving university in 1991, Theroux, who has dual British and US citizenship, decided to go to America
  3. ^ "Louis Theroux: 'I'm not out to take advantage of anyone. I'm just". The Independent. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Therouxly, madly, deeply: Jennifer Aniston engaged to Justin Theroux, member of London's premier literary family". London Evening Standard. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  5. ^ "You ask the questions: Louis Theroux". The Independent. 7 November 2001. Archived from the original on 14 August 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  6. ^ The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge. 2003. pp. 1668. ISBN 1-85743-217-7.
  7. ^ Cheuse, Alan (4 June 1989). "A worldly education Paul Theroux imagines a much-traveled writer's active erotic life". Chicago Tribune.
  8. ^ Current Biography Yearbook, H. W. Wilson Co., 1979, p. 415.
  9. ^ a b c d Aitkinhead, Decca (30 January 2011). "Louis Theroux: 'I'm not that comfortable doing polemic'". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Meet Louis Theroux". BBC. Archived from the original on 9 March 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  11. ^ Hogan, Michael (25 December 2016). "Forget Christmas TV: Adam and Joe's 20th anniversary reunion podcast is the best present you'll get in 2016". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  12. ^ "The Nick Clegg story". BBC. 19 December 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  13. ^ Theroux, Louis (1999). Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends: Off-Off Broadway. New York: BBC Two.
  14. ^ "Louis Theroux: a timeline". The Daily Telegraph. 4 February 2011. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  15. ^ "Louis Theroux explains why he's so stoic in his documentaries". The Independent. 10 May 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  16. ^ Lewis, Tim (22 March 2014). "Louis Theroux: 'You get to inhabit quite an intimate space'". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Channel 4's "50 Greatest Documentaries"". IMDB. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  18. ^ "BBC commissions Savile documentary". BBC News. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Louis Theroux to make new Jimmy Savile film". BBC News. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  20. ^ "BBC TWO Louis Theroux: Savile". BBC. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  21. ^ Kevin Young, "Theroux promises to raise stakes", BBC, 20 April 2006.
  22. ^ Patterson, John (30 September 2016). "My Scientology Movie: Louis Theroux's exposé is the most damning yet". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  23. ^ Louis Theroux (20 April 2020). "Welcome to Grounded with Louis Theroux". Grounded with Louis Theroux (Podcast). BBC Sounds. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  24. ^ "Internet Adult Film Database". www.iafd.com. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  25. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  26. ^ "Exeter v Magdalen, Oxford, Christmas 2015, University Challenge - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  27. ^ Sanghera, Sathnam (2005). "Louis Theroux". sathnam.com. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  28. ^ "Louis Theroux - Celebrity Atheist List". Celebatheists.com. 2 April 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  29. ^ Billen, Andrew (4 February 2011). "Last Night's TV: Louis Theroux: The Ultra Zionists". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  30. ^ Louis Theroux Masterclass @ Docville 2012 on YouTube
  31. ^ Theroux, Louis (2019). Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times in Television. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9781509880362.
  32. ^ Bucktin, Christopher. "Louis Theroux: I hope Jennifer Aniston marries my cousin Justin Theroux". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  33. ^ Carroll, Rory (8 October 2017). "Louis Theroux: 'For all his awfulness, I admire Trump's shamelessness'". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  34. ^ "Company that hijacked Eamonn Holmes and Louis Theroux Twitter accounts denies breaking law". Sky News. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  35. ^ Greenstreet, Rosanna (17 November 2018). "Louis Theroux: 'My greatest achievement ? To have made a career in TV while being nervous by nature'". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  36. ^ "Louis Theroux on Legalising Marijuana & His Craziest Interviews! The Big Narstie Show". YouTube. 2 March 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  37. ^ "The Big Narstie Show - Series 3 Episode 4". Channel 4. 28 February 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.

38. BBC Radio 4, 'Grounded', 4 January 2021.(Omits mention of: Stone's support for whistleblower Julian Assange; or Stone's important works, "JFK" and "The Untold History of the United States".) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Stone#Interviews

External links[edit]